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Falcons determined to avoid letdown against Lions

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Falcons determined to avoid letdown against Lions

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Thursday was an ugly, rainy day at Atlanta's practice facility - a perfect setting for the Falcons to be reminded they can make sure they don't play another game outdoors this season.

That's added motivation to avoid a letdown in Saturday night's game at Detroit's Ford Field.

The Falcons (12-2) can secure home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs by beating the Lions. They play their final regular-season game against Tampa Bay next week in the Georgia Dome. The Super Bowl in New Orleans also will be played in a dome.

Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon had a big smile taking about how a win at Detroit would mean there would be no chance of a January game in Seattle's rain or Green Bay's snow.

``That's awesome,'' Weatherspoon said. ``We have a lot to play for. It should be fun.''

The Falcons have painful memories of their last road game, a Dec. 9 loss at Carolina that followed a home win over the Saints.

Tight end Tony Gonzalez said players must respond better to last week's impressive 34-0 win over the Giants.

``Our focus going into that game was the best it's been all year,'' Gonzalez said. ``We have to have that type of effort week in and week out for the rest of the season. That's what good teams do in December, it's what they do in the playoffs, and ultimately Super Bowl championship teams. They have great focus throughout the week because that's what helps you win the game.''

This week's schedule left little time to savor the shutout of New York. Because they play on Saturday night, the Falcons started their practice schedule on Tuesday, their normal off day. Thursday's one-hour practice at the team's indoor facility was like the normal Friday workout.

``We've had times like this before,'' receiver Harry Douglas said Thursday. ``We've had a Thursday night game and a Monday night game, and we don't look at it like a distraction. When we had practice on Tuesday, in my mind it was already Wednesday. I got my mind right on Monday.''

Atlanta's two losses have come on the road - at New Orleans on Nov. 11 and the disappointing 30-20 defeat at Carolina on Dec. 9.

Gonzalez said the loss at Carolina should be a lesson as the Falcons prepare to play a 4-10 Detroit team that has lost six straight games.

``You can't just show up and think you're going to beat a team,'' Gonzalez said. ``Maybe we learned that against Carolina. Maybe that loss was something good for us. It's something that I think we learn from our mistakes and we keep moving forward.''

Weatherspoon said there was no mention of the Carolina game this week.

``No, we didn't go back that far,'' Weatherspoon said. ``We just tried to focus on what we did last week in preparation and we want to kind of imitate that this week. If you practice the right way, you should have a pretty good outing.''

The Falcons would clinch home-field advantage just by splitting their final two regular-season games. They've resisted any suggestion that this isn't a must-win game.

``Don't leave anything to chance,'' said running back Michael Turner. ``We control our own destiny and we want to leave it in our hands.

``I think we learned our lesson from the Carolina game. We are not taking anything for granted. We've still got work to do. We've still got things to get better at. We are going to take this like they are going to give us their best shot. We know that. Everybody tends to play better in prime time.''

NOTES: WR Roddy White (right knee) had limited participation in practice after behind held out on Wednesday. SS William Moore (hamstring) has not practiced all week and could miss his third straight game. Reserve DE Cliff Matthews (hamstring) also was held out. DT Jonathan Babineaux (ribs), OT Tyson Clabo (thigh) and CB Christopher Owens (hamstring) had limited participation.

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Lamar Jackson embarrasses yet another NFL defender with an incredible juke

Lamar Jackson embarrasses yet another NFL defender with an incredible juke

Lamar Jackson is better at football than most people are at anything.

He proved it once more early in the first quarter against the Bills, breaking two more ankles en route to gaining a first down on the ground.

Bills linebacker Matt Milano, who, it needs to be mentioned, is paid a lot of money to tackle people, completely whiffs on Jackson here. He tackles the air while falling to the ground, and will forever have to watch his attempted tackle on highlight reels.

Lamar Jackson can't stop putting NFL defenders to shame, and we can't stop laughing watching them.

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Backstrom's back: Caps will get their top center back for Monday's game

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Backstrom's back: Caps will get their top center back for Monday's game

ARLINGTON, Va -- The Capitals are riding a six-game win streak and already have the most points in the NHL and now they will be adding one of their best players back into the lineup. Nicklas Backstrom said Sunday after practice that he is "ready to go" for Monday's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. It will be his first game since Nov. 18.

An upper-body injury forced Backstrom out of the lineup for the last eight games. Despite returning to practice during the team's road trip through California, he did not get into a game as the team preached caution with its star center. As the team returned home, Backstrom took line rushes on Sunday and both he and head coach Todd Reirden confirmed he would be back in for Monday's game.

"It was good to see him out there in full practice," Reirden said. "Did some drills specifically to help prepare him for tomorrow. He's good to go for tomorrow."

Backstrom said he knew when he woke up on Sunday that he was ready.

"As of today I'm good to go," he said. "I woke up and felt good. It's like that guy in 'Mighty Ducks,' I woke up, no pain."

It does not appear as if Backstrom will be eased back into the lineup as he skated on the top line in practice alongside Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson. Evgeny Kuznetsov had been playing in that spot, but the top line had grown stagnant. Ovechkin, Wilson and Kuznetsov combined for only one even-strength point in the past three games.

Barring something unexpected, the return of Backstrom should give the Caps their full lineup for the first time all season. Considering what the team has been able to accomplish thus far while having to shuffle the lineup because of injuries and suspensions, this has been an impressive start.

"I think that shows the depth that we have all the way through our lineup: forward, defenseman and our goaltending has been strong," Reirden said. "I think it's a clear understanding that it's a competitive situation that we've had since training camp that players are ready to take advantage of their opportunities that they get and they know that they need to otherwise there's a chance they could find themselves on the outside. The inner-competition we've had has probably helped push that a little bit. That's been a good problem to have, and it's allowed us to see some other players get opportunities and showcase some of the abilities they have."

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